Carmen Huter may be Austrian born, but she is a true Kiwi at heart
A genuinely full-spirited human, this full-time photographer and travel blogger is known for her dreamy and inspirational photography of stunning locations around the world. She is popular on Instagram where she frequently gains thousands of likes per photo and has a following of almost 100,000. Carmen and her work has been featured in a laundry list of publications: Stuff.co.nz, NZ Herald, The Daily Mail and Nadia Lim Magazine. Despite this, she’s charming, humble and despite her openness, a little reserved. I met Carmen a few years ago, when she was visiting Wellington for a mini-break. Her warm and bubbly personality made me want to be her friend immediately. In 2018, Carmen moved from Auckland to Wellington, which she now calls home – so naturally I had to baptize her as an official Resident of Wellington.
Carmen Huter was born in a small Austrian town, near a very large mountain. “I was born in June, 1993” Carmen smiles over tea at Prefab one bright Autumn morning. “It is funny that I take photos of mountains a lot and I grew up next to one. Also, my Dad used to be a mountaineer. This year I might climb that mountain near my hometown – which is actually the same height as Mount Cook. How weird is that??”
Carmen’s mother gave birth to her when she was young. “My mother had me when she was 17 to my father, who is super smart and speaks about five or six languages. He was ten years older than her. My father now owns a trucking logistics company - he is a born leader and very charismatic. But he and my mother didn’t stay together, so I grew up with him alone with him as my legal guardian” Carmen explains.
Carmen describes her experience growing up as ‘like a soap opera’. With her father working long hours, Carmen was forced to be independent from a young age, taking care of herself, doing her school work and cooking her own meals. When she was fifteen she left home after a fraction in the family with her father’s new partner and a new child. “A lot of my decisions I made because I had to. But those experiences have made me a good business woman and confident in making choices. I took care of myself. I was the outlier in my hometown” says Carmen. “Everyone has their own baggage” says Carmen. “Mine is just a little bit larger than others. When I came to New Zealand it was a clean slate. I built my family here in my new country. I never considered throwing in the towel and telling everyone to get lost. I instinctively knew that if I put out anger, I would get anger back. So I worked hard and left that situation to start a new life.”
Interestingly, Carmen never meant to stay in New Zealand when she moved here to study at a business school in Wellington at 18. “Coming here was supposed to be a breather” Carmen explains. “I was meant to study, then move back to Austria and work in an office and go to university actually.” Where did the idea to move across the world come from? “I had watched a TV show when I was 14 about a German family moving as ex-pats to New Zealand” Carmen says “I had no idea about taking photos. It was just a fresh start for me!”
Her photography journey started in her final year of studying when she picked up a camera and became inspired. In just three years, Carmen has re-invented herself as a travel photographer. “I had no clue about what I was doing” says Carmen. “I used to shoot on a setting called ‘A’ which I thought was ‘Automatic’ and turned out to be ‘Aperture priority’ for a year. All my photos were blown out!”
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Things really changed for Carmen when a photo she took of a snowy hut next to Lake Louise in Canada was featured by National Geographic on their website featuring global photographers. “I really decided after that that I needed to have a distinct point of view and take travel photography seriously as a craft” Carmen explains. She ditched the lifestyle and fashion angle to her blog, www.carmenhuter.com, and focused in on inspiring pictures of nature and the environment.
People assume that Carmen has an easy and fun job all the time, and looking at her photography you might think so too. However, working full time as a blogger and photographer, running her own business, means that Carmen can never switch off. “My mind is always going going going. If you have your own business, you never switch off” she explains. “Meditation and yoga certainly help to silence the mind. Also, I can’t complain to anyone about having to get up at 5am for a conference call or not getting a job. I have to organize everything myself.”
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Carmen does freelance photography for commercial promotional purposes and now weddings. “It involves pitching, negotiating, mood boards, travel, editing - the whole picture!” she explains. “I also have to organise all my travel work, booking hotels, organising flights, deciding on interesting countries. Things can go wrong - like I got struck with Malaria in Africa. While I don’t get paid for that kind of work, unless I use imagery for a sponsored post, I treat these passion project trips just like work all-the-same. A lot of it is strategising work that is much bigger than myself. And it’s very admin heavy too!”
Originally Carmen admits that she made no money the first year in which she was a full-time photographer. “I lived very frugally. Now, my job is being a photographer but that doesn’t mean that Instragram pays me to go and shoot epic locations. I work for clients shooting things I don’t share on my own profile.” She also acknowledges that her lifestyle can be idealised. “There is so much pressure on people to earn money by being a full-time blogger or photographer or Instagram influencer. There is a lot to be said about having a side hustle just to keep you sane!” Carmen says. Carmen also admits that because the industry is small in New Zealand she is often pitching for work with certain brands she wants to work with. “Also, I used to give away a lot of work for nothing. Only in the last few months have I decided to say no more. If it was a physical product I sold, it would be easier, but because it is my skills it becomes harder. It comes down to understanding what expectations are on both sides. On Instagram, it’s a Wild-West. No one knows what anyone else is being paid and sometimes it can be hugely different”
Despite her digital presence, Carmen appreciates real life. Her greatest joy is to be on the road. But for now, she bases herself in Wellington. “Wellington has the human element that is missing in some other parts of New Zealand” she explains. “I feel most at home in a place that isn’t cliquey and isn’t pretentious, just like Wellington.”